4 December is ”Skin Cancer Awareness Day” in the European Parliament in Brussels.“Skin Cancer Awareness Day” is a joint initiative by the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL), European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) and Euromelanoma. The host for “Skin Cancer Awareness Day” is MAC (MEP’s Against Cancer) and the event will take place in the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels. The subject to be discussed is: “Sunbed Use and Skin Cancer Prevention: Status, Gaps, and Calls for Action”. The ”Skin Cancer Awareness Day” at the European Parliament in Brussels will include an opportunity for MEP’s to get a free screening for skin cancer at the courtesy of the EADV. What follows below can be considered to be a sort of an open letter to MEP’s and other politicians giving another angle to what you will be presented on the “Skin Cancer Awareness Day. “You now have a couple of options how to continue:
- Consider that you already know everything there is to know about tanning beds and their relationship with skin cancer -> just click away from this page.
- Continue to read and maybe pick up something new that can be of use for your work and for the health of your electorate.
Follow the money and look at the full pictureSince both EADV and Euromelanoma are financed by L’Oréal and Nestlé (through some of their daughter-companies, see picture below) it is no surprise to find them behind the Skin Cancer Awareness Day.
What is more remarkable is however that ECL and MAC, both organisations that should look at the full picture of cancer, are promoting the “Skin Cancer Awareness Day”. Could it be so that each type of cancer has its own subgroup (with their own sponsors) in ECL and MAC? At least in ECL this seems to be the case. This is how they are explaining their relationship to L’Oréal in a “Response to the Consultation on Smart Regulation” to the European Commission: “The running of ECL is funded mainly by annual fees from its member leagues. Selected specific activities are funded by industry sponsors, such as Garnier International for our melanoma actions.”
Industrial sponsoring of research is an unfortunate trend which leads to bias.The involvement of the cosmetic- and pharmaceutical- industry in skin-cancer research could be beneficial for the public – if it really was done with just an ounce of altruism. But which are then the real reasons why L’Oréal and their largest shareholder, Nestlé, are spending millions, if not billions, of Euros on, supposedly, trying to find a cure against skin-cancer? The answer is that obviously they do not want to find a cure. They just want to create more customers for their products. And they are extremely successful with this. The losers in this marketing game are the European citizens and governments. If left without political control or, even worse, if the politicians themselves and also WHO are not 100% free from monetary influence from the industry, public health is in big trouble. Given the direct link from L'Oréal to ECL and the close relationship between ECL and MAC, certainly means that the MEP's in MAC must be trusted with a very high level of integrity.
Vitamin D, the miracle hormone and the new name on ancient wisdomIf EADV and ECL (inclusive all their members) really were interested in curbing the apparently rampaging skin-cancer epidemic, and, at the same time, reduce all other cancers with maybe as much as 50%, they should organise a “Vitamin D” instead of a “Skin Cancer” awareness day. And discuss how tanning beds could be used to give people in Europe Vitamin D in the best and safest way all year around. Every day during 2012 there have been in average more than 10 reports published about Vitamin D and almost all of them describing the benefits of this “miracle hormone” in reducing the risk of different kinds of cancers. Even so, the medical establishment, from WHO at the top and down to national and local health authorities, still considers the evidences about benefits from Vitamin D as “non-conclusive”. It doesn’t mean though, that they are right. The scandal around H1N1 (Swine-flu) influenza vaccine is an unfortunate example of that. It is well known that the best and the only natural production of vitamin D come from exposing our skin towards UVB-photons. The healing powers of UV-light have been known by mankind for thousands of years. Once upon a time, Niels Ryberg Finsen, who discovered how to use UV-light to cure tuberculosis, was awarded with the Nobel Prize for his work. In fact, until the invention of antibiotics and vaccine, sunlight was the most efficient treatment for most remedies. (And perhaps it still is today). The invention of the tanning lamp, emitting the same kind of UVB photons as we can find in the sunlight, is therefore an invention well worth another Nobel Prize. And maybe it would have got one already if it wasn’t for the campaign against UV-light that started some 30 years ago and by now has managed to turn a whole generation (or two) from ancient wisdom and common sense to modern commercial quackery.
“Melanoma-marketing” is costing the European society enormous sums.I will not go deeper here into the invention of “melanoma-marketing” as a commercial tool for sales of sun-protection cosmetics and skin cancer therapies. You can find all about that at www.tannersrights.com. The facts are that there are numerous indications of that the “melanoma-marketing” campaign is creating an artificially built up fear of UV-light based upon spurious skin-cancer statistics and biased reporting. Public screening events like “Melanoma Days” have been invented and sponsored by L’Oréal and other manufacturers of skin remedies in order to fight skin cancer by the method of early detection. The problem is that obviously it doesn't work like it should since the mortality does not decrease. It does however create millions of new cases of diagnosed skin cancer (which means millions of new customers for the sponsors and billions of tax-payers’ money in public health costs). In the graphs below, you can clearly see the increased gap between incidences and mortality for melanoma and non-melanoma in the Sweden. Sweden is one of few countries in the world which has an official register for non-melanoma skin cancers. The statistical improbable gap shows the number of new patients drawn into the “illness-maintenance”-focused healthcare systems every year. From the statistic it is easy to see that whatever is being done to curb skin-cancer, obviously isn't working very well. The problem is that the Cancer organisations like, for example the Swedish Cancer Society, are twisting their obvious failure of saving lives into a false image of success by reporting the relative numbers between incidences and mortality (i.e. “survival rates”), not the real numbers.
Here is another graph from the report “Known and potential new risk factors for skin cancer in European populations: a multicentre case–control study.”5) by Dr. E de Vries et. al. It is probably hard to find any clearer visual illustration over the uselessness of early screening in order to decrease the mortality.
The control of media makes the fight against “melanoma-marketing” a real David against Goliath battleIn addition to my findings of L’Oréal-sponsored research behind practically all reports of the dangers of tanning beds, there have been a few other critical voices against the “science” behind “melanoma-marketing”. Here are some of them: Dr. William Grant’s “Critique of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s meta-analyses of the association of sunbed use with risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma”1); Prof. Earl J. Glusac’s report “The melanoma ‘epidemic’, a dermatopathologist’s perspective”2) (the ending words in that report are worth repeating: “I bring it up because I believe that the overdiagnosis of melanoma is arguably the most difficult problem that we face in dermatopathology today.“); Dr. Sam Schuster’s article in the Guardian: “Don't let the phoney melanoma scare keep you out of the sun.”3) A real eye-opening report came however in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Accuracy in melanoma detection: A 10-year multi-center survey.”4) The purpose of the survey was to investigate the relationship between necessary excision of malign melanoma and unnecessary removals of benign lesions. And the findings presented by Dr. Giuseppe Argenziano and his colleagues confirmed all suspicions of inflated melanoma statistics. Unfortunately, the report from the gigantic research (300,215 cases from 23 clinics in 13 countries) did not get even a fraction of the attention in media that another small report about claiming “tanning addiction” among 17 students got. This just highlights the problem MEP’s and other politicians are faced with when it comes to decide their attitude towards indoor tanning. Because of their influence on mass- and glossy- media channels through their advertising budgets, L’Oréal and Nestlé control not only the research but also the communication about skin-cancer. And with that they decide the opinion of the public. Since politicians are elected to follow the wishes of their electorate, purging sunlight and tanning beds seem to be the very right thing to do even if many facts indicate that the public has been brainwashed with false information.
National Cancer Societies are digging in the wrong direction.The national Cancer Societies are not very helpful when it comes to try to give their politicians an unbiased opinion. They continue to spend all their money on traditional cancer-treatments and practically nothing on the potential massive benefits of Vitamin D. Instead they are spending millions of Euros trying to “keep us in the dark” by campaigns of how to avoid sunlight and tanning beds. One example of this narrow view on skin-cancer can be found in a statement from the Swedish Cancer Society. They write like this (translated from Swedish) in a recent report: “[We] believe that the vitamin D issue should not affect current strategies regarding the prevention of skin cancer.” I do believe they will regret this sentence within only a couple of years from now.
What about an alternative scenario?So, what if there is no skin cancer epidemic and the use of tanning beds in Europe in reality is so infinitesimal that it is even statistically insignificant (as in the large case-control study, mentioned above, of risk factors for skin-cancer by Dr. E de Vries et. al.: “Known and potential new risk factors for skin cancer in European populations: a multicentre case–control study.”5))? And what if a wide-spread habit of regular short, non-burning, sessions in tanning beds really could give people in Europe enough levels of Vitamin D to achieve the reduction in cancers (including skin-cancer) which experts on the benefits of Vitamin D claim it can? Without increasing whatsoever (rather the opposite) any risk of skin-cancer. Wouldn’t that motivate at least an attempt from MEP’s and other politicians responsible for our welfare to uncover the real truth about skin-cancer and its prevention? Maybe instead of thinking about reducing the use, you should envision an alternative with a program teaching people of how to use this Nobel Prize worthy invention for the purpose of preventing cancer (with a general improvement of peoples’ health as a bonus)? Why not combine this with regulations for indoor tanning that even more reduce the potential risk? Not by any bans and limitations of usage but rather through better adopting both the technical specifications and the operating manuals to the potential health benefits (i.e. more UVB and less UVA). What about teaching school children about the benefits of UV-light (from the natural sun or from the lamps in a tanning bed) and how to acquire those benefits in a safe way? And that is definitely not by slopping on sunscreen every day. If nothing else, it would bring back some sanity and common sense into the debate.
What MEP's will be told at the Skin Cancer Awareness DayIf they were to be presented with the latest research regarding the “Relationship between sunbed use and melanoma risk in a large case-control study in the United Kingdom” 6), done by Dr. Faye Elliott et. al. with the conclusion: “Therefore, we have not found any evidence of a relationship between sunbed use and melanoma risk”, it would be one thing. Unfortunately they will instead be fed and expected to react upon the old mantras from the people behind the decision in IARC about the dangers of indoor tanning. The presenters will use recycled and further skewed meta-research (as described in Dr. Grant's report) based upon spun (by the use of “black-box like” “adjusted for” manipulations) case-control studies, many of them funded by L’Oréal. And they will to try to prove that indoor tanning is a main culprit contributing with an unbelievable number of cases to the increasing number of skin-cancer incidences in Europe. They are the same persons that, when asked about to provide proof of independency according to the rules for publication in the British Medical Journal, refused to disclose any affiliation with the founders and beneficiaries of “melanoma-marketing”. When the MEPs also will be asked to sign a document (White Book), they should know that it has been drafted by people on the payroll of one of L’Oréal’s companies.
Still, this is a too serious matter to be taken lightlyNow, having said all the above, I do not want to leave anyone with the impression that an increased mortality in melanoma and other cancers is something that should be neglected. It is just so that indoor tanning seems more to be a part of the solution than being a part of the problem. References: